‘Win or Lose Part 3’ Thursday Stories with Baby Frederico

*Every Thursday we introduce you to another quick bedtime story about our family’s favorite resident reptile – Baby Frederico. His backstory can be found here.  Enjoy!

 BF Race 2

Baby Frederico loves his Momma Mia and Papá Frita, his buddy Grenelda the Grasshopper, blue crayons, popcorn…and superhero Lego mini figures, but he did not like to lose.  Here is part 3 of his story (for part one and two click here):

Where was he? That was all Baby Frederico could think as he stared at the scene before him. Everything seemed to be covered in a foggy mist that crept along before and behind him. He could hear two things: the sound of a car racing its engine and the sound of Grenelda playing her cello. He searched to see them, but he could only hear them through the deep darkness that was now nearly enveloping him.

Suddenly, the sound of the car came near him, too near him. It was so close in fact that he could smell the rubber burning from the tires as it raced somewhere right beside him.  To his left, the sounds of the cello suddenly became so loud and eerie that Baby Frederico could hardly think.  He began to shiver from fright.

And then the car again…and the sounds of that cello. They swirled around him until the fog and the noise and the shivering fright itself – all of it seemed to spring to life and carry him through the darkness.

He awoke with such a start that he nearly fell out of his bed. Where was he? He slowly looked around and finally and thankfully realized he was home and it was morning and it had only been a bad dream.

Baby Frederico wasted no time as he sprang to life.  He knew what he must do and raced to Grenelda’s home.  He knocked frantically at her front door, but there was no answer. He waited and listened…and that is when he heard the sweet sound of a cello, Grenelda’s cello.

Baby Frederico followed the familiar music to her backyard and there she was, his best buddy. He waited until her song was complete and walked over to where she was sitting.
Before she could say a word, Baby Frederico apologized and asked her forgiveness. She was more than happy to do it, but she asked why he had been so angry.

Baby Frederico was embarrassed but he did his best to explain why he had become so angry when he had lost the car race, “Well, I thought that I didn’t like to lose and that if I won, that would be the only way I would ever be happy…and now I know that’s not true. Friendship is more important than winning.”

Grenelda was so happy to have her friend back that all she could think to say, well, it was exactly what needed to be said – “Baby Frederico, if you have a friend in this big old world, then you have already won.”

Courage in Oz

Cowardly Lion:  “All right, I’ll go in there for Dorothy. Wicked Witch or no Wicked Witch, guards or no guards, I’ll tear them apart. I may not come out alive, but I’m going in there. There’s only one thing I want you fellows to do.”

Tin Woodsman & Scarecrow:  “What’s that?”

Cowardly Lion:  “Talk me out of it!”



As my wife and I and our friends get older and move into this stage of our children leaving home and living their own lives, I was deeply struck by some words attributed to John Steinbeck.  He wrote, “Perhaps it takes courage to raise children…”

I have tried to think back to our early days of parenting to discover when the need for courage really begins. Was it when the doctor first confirmed that a baby was indeed on the way and we rejoiced while at the same time wondered what it really meant for two people who still enjoyed romantic dinners and quiet nights at the movies and sleeping in on Saturdays? Was it in the long hours watching the pains of labor that finally produced a real live baby who would bear a name only we had chosen for her?

Maybe it was the hard and frustrating nights around our kitchen table when money was tight and bills were voluminous and the future of our young family loomed somewhere out there in the darkness? Could it have come when another’s rising fever forced us to the emergency room on her birthday and we thought we had lost her on the frantic drive there?

Maybe it came when one made a bad decision that ended with discipline and heartbreak and anger and mercy and forgiveness near the midnight hour around our kitchen table? Or maybe it truly began when one left for life on a college campus that she would soon call “home?”

Then again, maybe the courage to parent is always present, lying dormant somewhere within us and just waiting for these and a million other moments to arrive and pull courage from its slumber.  Maybe, just maybe, if courage was required of parents all the time, we would never want to be parents, never want to accept the journey to live and love and lose and win and fail and try and try again.

It all makes me think of our youngest’s favorite book, The Wizard of Oz.  The cowardly lion is so worried about everything that he somehow ends up hiding in the shadows of that forest, a recluse, all alone and going nowhere…so discouraged to have no courage.  And then, only after he stops worrying about not having courage and accepts Dorothy’s invitation to join her and her friends on that now famous journey – then and only then does courage come, just when he needs it most.

‘My Monster Mama Loves Me So’ – Look at this Book!

* Every Tuesday we introduce you to a favorite book from our secret book room, and give you a unique “recipe for fun” this week over on our Book Cook page…

 photo (1)

Today’s great book:  My Monster Mama Loves Me So by Laura Leuck with illustrations by Mark Buehner (1999, HarperTrophy)

Time to Read: short and funny; bedtime or anytime

Summary:  from the back cover…”At once tender and funny, this monster bedtime story is guaranteed to generate giggles, tickles, and plenty of monster hugs.”

Best Quote:  “And when the moon sets in the sky, she sings a monster lullaby of things that shriek and moan and creep – soothing things to help me sleep.”

Our View:  The wonderfully intricate illustrations filled with detail and color and coupled with the rhythmic, sing-song style of the text really do make this a special “monster” style book for children and their families.  When I first used it in my student teaching work with kindergartners, it helped diminish the scary mystery that simply comes from that word – monster – and helped them find some commonalities among themselves and this sweet monster child (who is even scared of human children!) in this story.  This week, when I asked my own daughters which Halloween book we should review and create a recipe for, they immediately remembered this book, which we had not read in several years – so it must have made an impression on them and will make a great one on you and your kids, too.

Remember to visit our Book Cook page for the recipe – “Monster Mama” – created by the kids to accompany this particular book.

5 Great Kids Reads for Halloween

Halloween books

Thirteen years ago I was assigned to a student teaching position in Kindergarten at Windsor Hills Elementary School in Putnam City, a suburb of Oklahoma City.  It was a wonderful experience that I will never forget, but one of the moments that stands out to me was the day my assigned classroom’s wonderful veteran teacher told me what she wanted me to use as my theme to teach when my professor came to evaluate me as I taught that roomful of 20 young children in late October.  She said one word – ‘monsters.’

She had always used that as her theme for this particular week and so that was the theme she wanted me to use, as well.  I was crushed.  As a boy, I was scared to death of monsters and spent many creepy nights sleeping outside my parent’s bedroom in my Battlestar Galactica sleeping bag.

Now here I was faced with having to create a five-day curriculum for little girls and boys about the one thing that surely sent them fleeing on most nights – monsters!  To make a long story short, it went wonderfully well (this was one great teacher and I trusted her) and I had the time of my life.  We used the puppets of Where the Wild Things Are and learned Monster tunes for Kids that my daughters and I made up at night and I taught to the children the next morning in circle time.  We completed math lessons with monsters and wrote stories and talked about scary monsters and funny monsters and fears and worries and everything in between.  The whole room was a monster wonderland!  I also collected quite a variety of great children’s books with monster themes during that semester of my life.  Here are a few of our favorite short read-alouds to celebrate some reading time with your little ones during this especially monstrous week of the year:

1.  Ten Creepy Monsters by Carey Armstrong-Ellis (Harry N. Abrams, 2012) – Julie Roach and School Library Journal reviewed the book for Preschool to Grade 2 and wrote, “When ten creepy monsters meet beneath a pine tree, they get into all sorts of trouble that helps readers count backward from ten to one…After the second to last monster-a vampire-rushes off in the sunrise, readers are left with one monster hurrying home. An abandoned mask, strewn candy, and a sleeping boy tell the rest of the story. Fun for Halloween or for counting anytime.”

2.  Monster Mischief by Pamela Jane (2001, Scholastic) – This is a wonderfully inventive book of creative monsters visiting a monster home to trick or treat for Halloween.  This quote from the book sums up the fun, “On Halloween, for trick or treat, five monsters mixed a stew to eat of which they never ate a bite, because their stew ran off that night.  A few, I know, are glad of that – spider, lizard, frog and bat!”

3.  Haunted Halloween:  A Choose Your Own Adventure Book #37 by Susan Sanders (1986, Bantam-Skylark) –  If you grew up in the 1980’s in America, this was the hottest series on the bookshelf.  It is still around and still exciting and interesting and interactive.  If you don’t remember how it works, the reader reads a few pages and then at a key point in the story there are two questions at the bottom of the page.  You must choose your own adventure at this point, sometimes for good and sometimes for not!  These are so much fun and your kids need to be reading them – there are many choices so I was happy that we had this one for Halloween week here at Father Knows Books!  In this book, “it is halloween night and you’ve been invited to a costume party at an old, spooky mansion.”

4.  Monster Pops Counting 123:  How Many Monsters Can You See by Gill Davies (2002, Parragon Publishing) – “Discover a pop-up surprise on each page as you enjoy a monstrously good counting rhyme.”  This book is super for preschool and Kindergartners, as well…and who doesn’t love a pop-up book!

5.  The Teeny Tiny Ghost by Kay Winters (1997, Scholastic) – a wonderful children’s picture book with a great read-aloud style and wonderful illustrations by Lynn Munsinger.  It is the story of a “timid teeny tiny ghost.  He lived in a teeny tiny house with two teeny tiny black cats.”  He is scared of scary stories and hides when he hears himself say “boo!”  When his friends come for a surprise costume party, things indeed take a turn for the better.

Father Knows Five 10-25-13

*Every Friday we serve you an “a la carte” style list of 5 unique videos, articles, ideas, etc. from all kinds of locations. (If you are viewing this blog through your email subscription, please follow the link to our website to view all videos.)  See you next week…

1.  Hotels with Libraries!  “That lady next to you on the plane can Kindle all she wants, but nothing beats picking up a real, weathered book upon arrival at your destination.  Check in to one of these awesome hotels with libraries — and some hotels that are libraries — where both the book shopping and scene-setting are done for you.”  There is even a hotel with its own library in every room (pic below) – poetry books for the Poetry Room; fairytales for the FairyTale Room, etc.


2.  Play-Doh and Learning to Read – all in one place!  Sign me up.


3.  My daughters flipped out over this gown made entirely from the famous Golden Books of our childhood!  For an interview with the creator, click here.

 Gown of Golden Books

4.  Every List Deserves a Cool Star Wars Item – “The classic stormtrooper helmet is one of the coolest visuals from the beloved Star Wars franchise. The iconic visuals recently got a makeover from some of the world’s most famous artists…”


5.  A Chinese proverb says, “A book is like a garden carried in a pocket.” This designer helps us see that very possibility right in his own garden! Click on the picture of it below to go to a video that describes this great idea at his website.

Book garden






‘Win or Lose Part 2’ Thursday Stories with Baby Frederico

*Every Thursday we introduce you to another quick bedtime story about our family’s favorite resident reptile – Baby Frederico. His backstory can be found here.  Enjoy!

 BF Race 1

Baby Frederico loves his Momma Mia and Papá Frita, his buddy Grenelda the Grasshopper, blue crayons, popcorn…and parades with marching bands full of trombone players; but he did not like to lose.  Here is part 2 of his story (for part one click here):

The moment Grenelda the Grasshopper’s purple and pink car won the race, Baby Frederico was mad.  He did not like to lose and he did not like that he lost to Grenelda and her, well his, purple and pink car.  And he told her so!

Grenelda was surprised and suggested that they try the race again because, “Surely you’ll win this time buddy.”  They raced again…and again….and even a third time – but each and every time Grenelda’s car won the race!  And Baby Frederico became angrier each time.

BF Race 2

In fact, Grenelda had never seen Baby Frederico get so upset – especially at her, his best buddy.  She was hurt, yes, but what really surprised her was how quickly all the fun they had while they were building the racetrack and talking and laughing all afternoon had so quickly and painfully come to an end.

Baby Frederico left her standing in the hallway with nothing more to say about it, so she decided it was time to leave and began the short walk home.  She felt terrible inside and even wished that she would have never won even one of those silly races at all.  She knew she had not cheated, that it was just how the car went down the racetrack that caused her to be the winner.  She knew she had done nothing wrong, but she still felt terrible.  Baby Frederico was her friend and now she missed him.

It had only been a moment when Baby Frederico, feeling embarrassed and sorry for they way he had acted, came back into the hallway to apologize to Grenelda…but she was gone.  He had no sooner realized she was gone, though, when he caught another glimpse of that purple and pink car and the long racetrack that they had built down the hallway…and he became angry all over again.  He did not like to lose.

That night, Baby Frederico slept fitfully and had a dream that turned into a nightmare.  When he would finally awake from it, everything would be different….(more next week!).


The Physics of Childhood

Hot Wheels 3

“If you want your children to turn out well, spend twice as much time with them and half as much money.” – Abigail Van Buren

How do things move?  It is one of the most basic questions that can be asked in regard to the science of physics.  In early childhood, movement is everywhere and is itself such a normal part of a child’s life that getting them to think in a developmentally appropriate and imaginative way about such things  and how they move is not hard at all.

When I was young, the physics of childhood flourished in me through an assortment of toy cars and later bicycles and go-carts and trying to build just the right ramps to turn each of them into the General Lee – the starring car of my favorite television show when I was a boy.  I remember the way it felt to get my bike just inches off the ground as it lifted its front wheel into the air from my makeshift ramp.  I was in heaven and imagined myself flying across rivers flanked by “Bridge Out” signs all along the way.  Some 30 years later, I can still remember the thrill of all that playing and working and experimenting!

Hot Wheels 2

So tonight the girls and I decided to take a walk down the toy aisle at our local Target.  I was especially intrigued with their Hot Wheels assortment and the girls and I soon picked out the coolest 3-lane racetrack that I had ever seen.  The girls each chose two Hot Wheels (at only .97 cents, this must still be the cheapest toy in the store!) and we headed home to do some racing.

In my mind, the best part about Hot Wheels tracks are their interchangeable styles, which gives way to some of the most interesting configurations and layouts you’ve ever seen.  I dared the girls (ages 8 and 13) to find a way to bring every set of tracks (we have six separate playsets, four of which we inherited from my gracious nephew Zachary!)  together to create one colossal PHYSICS event!

After more than two hours of thinking and talking and hypothesizing and experimenting and failing and succeeding (and a little Motown music in the background to keep the mood up) – and some very funny debates between the two of them that ended at one point when my 8-year old said, “It will never work,” to which my 13-year old responded, “Don’t say another word” – it was time to bring it all together and see the domino effect that would start with 3 cars colliding into 3 more cars and so on until the final car hit the finish line.

30 Hot Wheels and 22 feet of track later the physics of childhood keeps moving along – right before my eyes and among my kids “the scientists!”

Hot Wheels 1